Oliver Gospel Mission, located on 1100 Taylor St., provides not only food and emergency shelter for the homeless population, but also an opportunity for them to make the decision to move forward in a new direction.
Oliver Gospel’s mission statement says it is “engaging in transforming lives through the power of Christ’s love,” according to executive director Travis McNeal. McNeal said he believes a mission statement is key, but a business must be dedicated to it.
“If you’re not doing what your mission statement says, then you better back up and like, re-plan,” he said.
Oliver Gospel strives to have a lasting impact on people’s lives through its ministry, McNeal said. The mission's doors are open for all, whether that be for shelter or just a meal.
Besides the basics, it also provides "the opportunity for them to make the decision: Do they want to go further?” McNeal said.
“The impact, truly, that we have is that I believe that we do have real transformation; change; taking new steps; meeting new goals in a person’s life," McNeal said.
An important aspect to the mission, McNeal said, is feeding the homeless population. This has been especially important during the pandemic when large groups cannot be moved through the building like before.
Today, about 150 people are served outside Monday through Friday. Numbers taper off on the weekend because people's schedules flow differently on the weekend, McNeal said.
Oliver Gospel recently expanded its operation by adding the Roastery in October 2020.Lance Cooper, director of public relations at Oliver Gospel, said the Roastery is a “modern-day café, a little bit more personal than a typical Starbucks.”
The Roastery serves two primary functions for Oliver Gospel, Cooper said. Its first function is to fundraise.
“Every penny that people spend at ... the Roastery goes right back into the work that we do with the mission," Cooper said. "So when you buy a cup of coffee there, or you buy some coffee beans, you know, you choose to study there, I guess, and hang out with us, then all of that is going to support men and women and children that we serve at our gospel.”
Cooper said the Roastery is also used as a job training program. There, they train people in job skills to build their resumes and gain customer service experience.
Kwatika Canty came to Toby’s Place, Oliver Gospel’s women and children center, in June 2020 with her daughter.
“As I was staying at Toby’s Place ... I was in the career development phase of the program and started looking for a job, and I know Mr. Lance, who is over the Roastery, he was looking for somebody to come in," Canty said.
Canty was hired as a barista and said she is enjoying her work.
“I missed meeting new people, and it definitely gives me the opportunity to do that,” Canty said.
It also gives her the opportunity to share her story and listen to others, she said.
“Sometimes, you might hear somebody's story, and it might touch me, and you know, help show me hope, or might guide me to, you know, stay on the right path in life," Canty said. "I don't mind telling my story sometimes, so it can give somebody else some hope.”
Canty said she has used management and leadership skills in her position, and she dabbled in learning computer skills, such as graphic design.
Canty said she wanted students to know the Roastery's doors are always open.
“I actually enjoy the students when they come in. It’s kind of hard to learn everybody's names, but you know, just come on in, come on by and try us out," she said. "We would love to serve y’all a great cup of coffee."
The Roastery is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and it sells its coffee online. The Oliver Gospel Thrift Store on 10012 Two Notch Rd. is also open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.